So it was with a stirred spirit I deplaned and walked through the terminal with my fellow passengers. I caught a glimpse of my family standing together. My heart swelled. My smile widened. My six-foot-tall teenager was holding a bouquet of flowers and my little girls were holding homemade signs. I sighed happily and walked a little faster.
Then, I noticed their faces were decidedly apathetic. They looked bored, almost. At first I thought I must be too far away for them to recognize me. My husband made eye contact and encouraged me with a thin, weary smile. The children's faces remained stony.
No one broke free and ran toward me. No one shouted a gleeful, "Mommy!" They stared me down like I was an unwelcome invader, while they held flowers and signs. I considered turning around and hopping the next plane out of there.
Flowers were thrust in my direction. They deigned to hug me. I raised my eyebrows at Theo in question and mentioned my thoughts of fleeing the country.
He said he understood as we took the escalator to baggage claim, my preschooler's tiny hand matter-of-factly holding mine as if it were her assigned chore. John began telling me loud stories while standing too close. Hannah ran around in manic circles. Cote repeatedly pulled on the baby carrier, trying to get Zane's attention.
Later, Theo told me that Hannah had made the signs and the girls had bickered about them and other things all day. Hannah had held all four signs and the flowers at one point and they decided that she should spread the wealth. Theo explained that I wouldn't even be able to read the signs all piled up in her hands. He doled the flowers to John and asked the girls to divide the signs. Since the three-year-old had gotten distracted with other things, all four signs had been made by the seven-year-old. She chose to keep the two she made with popsicle stick poles.
Hannah was mad she had to share. Cote was mad she didn't have sticks. John was upset he was holding the flowers because he felt like he looked like he was waiting for his "Long-lost Hunny Bunny." Theo was exhausted.
Yep. Reality. It didn't land quite as easily as that American Airlines regional jet. We scraped the belly all the way in and got sprayed with fire-retardant foam. The ice finally cracked and we enjoyed a nice dinner and evening together. We didn't crash. We just came in a little hard.
And I think despite the trauma, we were all relieved to be safe and back together again. I only regret that I didn't whip out the camera and take a picture of my welcoming committee.